You can’t fault record labels for signing soundalike successful bands from other labels – it happens every year. In the early 1990s, every major label was in Seattle looking for the next Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Nirvana. So you can’t blame thousands of indie bands sending in their demos to those very same ground-breaking labels like Sub Pop. They were so flooded with demos at that time, the label decided to send out their own rejection letter to the unworthy bands, addressing them as “Losers.” I’m sure more than a few bands were just happy to get a note from the coolest label on the planet at the time.
Krist Novoselic bought a Nirvana bass-tabs book ahead of the band’s 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction so that he could relearn his parts. The Washington resident talked toRolling Stone for their piece about the big night on April 10, when Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Pat Smear played the grunge gods’ classics fronted by Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, St. Vincent, and Lorde.
“I picked up a Nirvana tab book a week before to relearn my parts,” said Novoselic, “but we weren’t up to speed at first. But then it started to flow and it got better and better. Then it hit me and I got kind of somber. I was like, ‘Oh my God. I’m playing these songs again.’”
Grohl weighed in as well on the experience of returning to material they’d left behind two decades previous: “I haven’t played those drum parts since I was 25. I’m 45 now. We played for 10 fucking hours each day. After the first night of rehearsals, I limped home, had two glasses of wine, three Advil, took a hot shower and slept for 10 fucking hours. That’s a coma for me, because I never sleep.”
Nirvana were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and along with Courtney Love and Dave Grohl sharing a stage, Michael Stipe did the induction speech.
Michael Stipe: Good evening. I’m Michael Stipe and I’m here to induct Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When an artists offers an idea, a perspective, it helps us all to see who we are. And it wakes up, and it pushes us forward towards our collective and individual potential. It makes us — each of us — able to see who we are more clearly. It’s progression and progressive movement. It’s the future staring us down in the present and saying, ”C’mon, let’s get on with it. Here we are. Now.”
I embrace the use of the word ”artist” rather than ”musician” because the band Nirvana were artists in every sense of the word. It is the highest calling for an artist, as well as the greatest possible privilege to capture a moment, to find the zeitgeist, to expose our struggles, our aspirations, our desires. To embrace and define a period of time. That is my definition of an artist.
Nirvana captured lightning in a bottle. And now, per the dictionary — off the Internet — in defining ”lightning in a bottle” as, ”Capturing something powerful and elusive, and then being able to hold it and show it to the world.”
Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl were Nirvana. The legacy and the power of their defining moment has become, for us, indelible. Like my band, R.E.M., Nirvana came from a most unlikely place. Not a cultural city-center like London, San Francisco, Los Angeles or even New York — or Brooklyn — but from Aberdeen, Washington in the Pacific Northwest, a largely blue-collar town just outside of Seattle.
Krist Novoselic said Nirvana came out of the American hardcore scene of the 1980s — this was a true underground. It was punk rock, where the many bands or musical styles were eclectic. We were a product of a community of youth looking for a connection away from the mainstream. The community built structures outside of the corporate, governmental sphere, independent and decentralized. Media connected through the copy machine, a decade before the Internet, as we know it, came to be. This was social networking in the face.
Dave Grohl said, ”We were drop-outs, making minimum wage, listening to vinyl, emulating our heroes — Ian MacKaye, Little Richard — getting high, sleeping in vans, never expecting the world to notice.”
Solo artists almost have it easier than bands — bands are not easy. You find yourself in a group of people who rub each other the wrong way and exactly the right way. And you have chemistry, zeitgeist, lightning in a bottle and a collective voice to help pinpoint a moment, to help understand what it is that we’re going through. You see this is about community and pushing ourselves. Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard.
Keep in mind the times: This was the late Eighties, early Nineties. America, the idea of a hopeful, democratic country, had been practically dismantled by Iran-Contra, by AIDS, by the Reagan/Bush Sr. administrations.
But with their music, their attitude, their voice, by acknowledging the political machinations of petty but broad-reaching, political arguments, movements and positions that had held us culturally back, Nirvana blasted through all that with crystalline, nuclear rage and fury. Nirvana were kicking against the system, bringing complete disdain for the music industry and their definition of corporate, mainstream America, to show a sweet and beautiful — but fed-up — fury, coupled with howling vulnerability.
Lyrically exposing our frailty, our frustrations, our shortcomings. Singing of retreat and acceptance over triumphs of an outsider community with such immense possibility, stymied or ignored, but not held down or held back by the stupidity and political pettiness of the times. They spoke truth, and a lot of people listened.
They picked up the mantle in that particular battle, but they were singular, and loud, and melodic, and deeply original. And that voice. That voice. Kurt, we miss you. I miss you.
Nirvana defined a moment, a movement for outsiders: for the fags; for the fat girls; for the broken toys; the shy nerds; the Goth kids from Tennessee and Kentucky; for the rockers and the awkward; for the fed-up; the too-smart kids and the bullied. We were a community, a generation — in Nirvana’s case, several generations — in the echo chamber of that collective howl, and Allen Ginsberg would have been very proud, here.
That moment and that voice reverberated into music and film, politics, a worldview, poetry, fashion, art, spiritualism, the beginning of the Internet and so many fields in so many ways in our lives. This is not just pop music — this is something much greater than that.
These are a few artists who rub each other the wrong way, and exactly the right way, at the right time: Nirvana. It is my honor to call to the stage Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.
Dave Grohl: Thank you very much.
I was the quiet one in Nirvana. I was the drummer. But most of you don’t know that I was the fifth drummer of Nirvana. For whatever reason, I got to be the luckiest person in the world and also be in Nirvana.
But I have to give credit to all of the other drummers that came before me: Aaron Burckhard, thank you very much. Dale Crover, from the Melvins, who is my absolute drumming hero. Chad Channing, who was the drummer for Nirvana. Chad, where are you? I know that you’re here somewhere. Isn’t Chad here somewhere? Chad’s around here, isn’t he? [points at camera] Are you over there? Hey, Chad! So, here’s the thing — guess what Chad’s responsible for? If you listen to a song like “In Bloom” [imitates opening of "In Bloom"], that’s Chad. When I joined the band, I had the honor of playing Chad’s parts, so Chad, thank you very much for allowing me to play your drum parts; I appreciate that very, very much. Dan Peters, from Mudhoney, who got to play one show with Nirvana — thank you, Danny.
But there’s a lot of people that made this possible, people that you might not know, people that I grew up with in Springfield, Virginia. Like Michael said … [reacts to people from Springfield] Really? You could afford the train?
We came from this underground punk rock scene where there really were no awards or ceremonies or trophies — it was all about doing it for real, and the reward was doing it right and doing it for real and sharing the community of music. Helping other musicians and inspiring people. And so I got really lucky to grow up in the Washington D.C. punk rock scene where I was inspired by all these amazing people; too many to list. But everyone from Chris Page to Ralph to Dave Smith to Reuben Radding to Peter Stahl and Franz Stahl and Skeeter Thompson; all the people that I ever played music with — Barrett Jones — I have to thank all of you because I wouldn’t be here.
I’m also lucky that when we first started out, we didn’t know anything about business — we were in a fucking van, buying corn dogs from t-shirts that we had sold. We were lucky that we found a manager named John Silva and we met an accountant named Lee Johnson. And I’m happy to say that I’ve never, ever strayed from those two people in my life. It’s been 25 years! I mean, it’s a long list of people and I’m going to forget most of them.
Most of all, I have to thank my family because I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family and in an environment that encouraged music. Parents that never told me not to listen to fucking Slayer, you know what I mean? I listened to some really, really fucked-up shit! But my parents never told me not to, because I was finding myself. So Mom — thanks. Thanks for letting me drop out of high school [laughs, points at trophy]. Kids, stay in school, don’t do drugs — it’s a bad idea.
I have to thank my beautiful wife, Jordyn, and my two daughters, who I hope grow up to inspire people just like every musician I grew up inspired by. Because I think that’s the deal — you look up to your heroes and you shouldn’t be intimidated by them; you should be inspired by them. Don’t look up at the poster on your wall and think, ”Fuck, I can never do that.” Look at the poster on your wall and think, ”Fuck, I’m going to do that!”
Dave Grohl and Courtney Love hug at the 29th Annual Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Krist Novoselic: Thank you Michael, for that great introduction, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I want to thank all of the Nirvana fans: Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say, ”Thank you for the music.” And when I hear that, it reminds me of Kurt Cobain.
I want to say thank you to Kurt Cobain, and I wish Kurt was here tonight, OK? And that music means so much to so many people, and there’s new generations and new fans coming up, and it’s really powerful. Kurt was an intense artist and he really connected with a lot of people.
With Nirvana, we started in Aberdeen, Washington — in Washington state — and we had a infrastructure there to support us. It was a music community. I want to thank Sub Pop Records; the music community in Seattle, in Washington State. I want to thank Buzz Osborne — thank you, Buzz, for joining us in punk rock music. I want to thank Jack Endino, who recorded our first record. Steve Albini and Butch Vig. Thank you Susan Silver for introducing us to the music industry properly. And thank you all again.
Wendy Cobain: I’m probably going to cry. I’m already crying because he’d be so proud — he’d say he wasn’t — but he would be. I just miss him so much. He was such an angel. Thank you.
Courtney Love: You know, I have a big speech, but I’m not gonna say it. This is my family I’m looking at right now — all of you. Brother Michael, Brother Krist, Grandma Wendy, Mr. Grohl. David!
And that’s it. I just wish that Kurt was here to feel this and be this. Twenty years ago, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame maybe wasn’t — but tonight, he would have really appreciated it. He would’ve appreciated Krist and Dave and Michael and his mother and his sisters being here. And I just want to give this to Francis, our daughter, who’s not here because she’s ill. That’s it —that’s all I have to say. Thank you so very much.
With Dave Grohl behind the drums, Krist Novoselic on bass, Pat Smear on guitar, and Joan Jett standing in for the late Kurt Cobain, playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be one to be remembered. Jett was followed by Kim Gordon for “Aneurysm,” and then, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark followed with “Lithium.” And finally, Lorde joined the band for a rendition of “All Apologies.”
Jimmy Fallon has already shown he can easily morph into into musical artists like Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and The Beatles, and this week, he transformed himself into Tom Petty. Then Petty errr… Fallon was joined by Stevie Nicks and the two went on to perform a re-creation of the video for Nicks’ 1981 classic “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”
…and there’s a cool intro from Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana, too. Watch the above video, and then look at the original 1981 video – pretty great stuff.
This photo, posted on Nirvana’s Facebook page shows Dave Grohl’s DW drums, Pat Smear’s Nirvana-era Fender Stratocaster and Krist Novoselic’s signature Gibson RD bass next to Joan Jett’s famous Gibson Melody Maker. There’s no comment from the group on the photo.
Does that mean Joan is fronting the band for Nirvana’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction this week?
This week marks the 20th anniversary of Kurt Contain’s death, and the photo of his arrest has again made the rounds, this time, with the incorrect wording at the bottom of the photo. As a teenager, Kurt Coain befriended a homosexual student at school, and suffered bullying from heterosexual students who concluded that Cobain was gay. In an interview he said that he liked having the identity of being gay because he did not like people and when they thought he was gay they left him alone. Kurt stated, “I started being really proud of the fact that I was gay even though I wasn’t”. His friend tried to kiss him and Kurt backed away and told his friend he was not gay but would still be friends with him. In a 1993 interview with The Advocate, Cobain claimed that he was “gay in spirit” and “probably could be bisexual.” He also stated that he used to spray paint “God Is Gay” on pickup trucks in the Aberdeen area. Aberdeen police records show that Cobain was arrested for spray painting the phrase “Ain’t got no how watchamacallit” on other vehicles. One of his personal journals states, “I am not gay, although I wish I were, just to piss off homophobes.”